C.O.W., Part 2 - Why Playoffs Suck

Posted Jan 20, 2011

The No. 1 reason why college football doesn't need a playoff, and more in Part 2 of the final Cavalcade of Whimsy of the season.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

January 20, Part 2

By Pete Fiutak

 Jan. 20 - Why Auburn Won the National Title

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten things about the 2010 college football season I'm grouchy about …

10. Bowl attendance
If the NCAA can make a rule saying that only teams with six wins, five against FBS teams, can get into a bowl game, then I want to institute a rule that bowl games must put at least 40,000 fans through the turnstiles with the butts actually sitting in the seats, and not just go by forced tickets sold to the schools (no freaking way were there 65,453 fans in the stands for the Virginia Tech – Stanford Orange Bowl), or it must be called an Exhibition.

If a team can't get its own fans to care enough to travel to a game, and if the community doesn't care enough to buy tickets, then why should the rest of the world give a lick?
So what's the common thread in the bowl games that struggled to get anyone to care? Non-BCS teams.

Do you want to know why the BCS bowl types aren't too keen on letting just anyone into their fun? Only two bowl games involving a non-AQ team sold more than 50,000 tickets: the Rose Bowl and the Liberty Bowl (UCF vs. Georgia). The other ten were under 50K.

9. The 2010 Seattle Seahawks
I'm a college football playoff guy. I want one, I need one, I have to have one if, and it's a huge if, it's done correctly. Knowing I'm not getting one for a long time, if at all, I've tried to look for the silver linings in the BCS. For all of BCS Grand Poobah Bill Hancock's ridiculous talking points, he's missing the one that actually holds water: There's nothing soft about winning the college football national championship.

There's a terrific chance that the Super Bowl will be played by two No. 6 seeds who couldn't even win their own respective divisions. New England and Atlanta were the two best teams in their conferences, and that meant a fat load of jack squat when it came to the playoffs. And then there are the Seattle Seahawks, who provide the BCS's No. 1 reason why there shouldn't be a playoff.

Seattle's shocking upset of New Orleans wasn't a good story and it wasn't cute. All it did was give Chicago a dog-ass team to play in the divisional round while devaluing the importance of the regular season. If the Bears beat the Packers and end up beating the Jets for the Super Bowl, they'll have beaten a team that finished the year with ten losses and two six seeds. Auburn went undefeated and won the SEC title and beat an Oregon team with the best offense in America.

Again, go through the 13-year history of the BCS and give the one national champion that didn't earn it. Sure, there can be debates about other teams that should've had a shot to play for it all, but there isn't a fluky champion anywhere on the board like the 2007 New York Giants.

8. Michigan under Brady Hoke
It's the Charlie Weis argument of a few years ago. He spent years building Notre Dame to be the way he wanted it, and just when most of his top players were going to be upperclassmen and all the pieces appeared to be in place, he was going to be fired. Of course, he was given one more year and the team was mediocre, but at least he got his shot.

The Rich Rodriguez era might have been strange, weird, and occasionally embarrassing, but it was also unfair. He never got an honest break from the fans, and while his teams weren't up to Michigan's high standards, he was trying to make a 180-degree turn in offensive philosophies and in styles. And now Brady Hoke gets to dance with Rodriguez's dates.

If the Gator Bowl loss to Mississippi State was anything but a complete and total embarrassment, RichRod would've and should've received another shot. Now, Hoke inherits a team with 21 returning starters, a loaded receiving corps, a secondary full of young players who spent last year learning the ropes, and Denard Robinson. For good and bad, Michigan will be like a great college basketball team that doesn't have any top pro prospects. It's bad that the overall talent level isn't top-shelf, but there are plenty strong veterans who are still around because they couldn't jet early. Watch out for the Wolverines in the Legends, and watch as Hoke gets all the credit.

7. Maryland under Randy Edsall
Same stuff as No. 6, just replace a lot of the Michigan parts with Maryland names.

It's a fair criticism of Ralph Friedgen and the job he did at Maryland to point out the lack of ticket sales and problems getting the base fired up, and it's fair to want to cut the ACC Coach of the Year now before the momentum swings the other way; better to fire a guy a year too early than a year too late. But his Terps should be in the thick of the ACC Atlantic race all season long, and they're loaded enough make Randy Edsall's first season a great one.

There's no grace period for Edsall, who get nine starters back on offense and seven on defense, including a gift from the gods with FS Kenny Tate inexplicably deciding to put off NFL millions to return for his senior year. Edsall has the backs to run the ball the way he wants to, and while he has work to do at linebacker, there are some extremely nice-looking young players to work with. The pieces are there for a ten-win season, but Friedgen didn't get the chance to reap the rewards of the foundation he set for 2011.

6. The SEC
This is sort of tricky considering the SEC's dominance in BCS championship games, but it's important to separate the fact that the SEC might have the elite team or top few teams, and the idea that the league is untouchable. Remember, the SEC lost four bowl games last year and the East was a disaster this season in the post-season. For all the great things the conference did, and considering its phenomenal New Year's Day beating of the Big Ten, the SEC only went 5-5 this bowl season. The point is to not automatically assume that the SEC is light years ahead of everyone else just because the top two teams are better than everyone else.

5. NFL Week 17 for the 2011-2012 season
The last weekend of the NFL weekend is awful. Outside of the Packers playing a Bears team trying not to get hurt, the teams who need the final game of the regular season are awful and shouldn't be in the playoffs anyway, while the top seeds are almost always set in stone. Fantasy leagues are done, most teams are jockeying for draft position, and the weekend plays out like a glorified exhibition. So why should you give a hoot about the last game of the NFL regular season?

Next year, it falls on Sunday, January 1, 2012.

New Year's Day is the most sacred and hallowed date on the college football calendar. You wake up hung over, you forget the Gator Bowl is on while you're sitting through the Outback, you take a nap, you watch the Rose Bowl, you take a nap, you eat something fattening and blow your New Year's resolution 15 hours in, you take a nap, you watch another BCS game, and you go to sleep. Clockwork.

This year, our Rose Bowl is on Monday, January 3rd and the Sugar will be either on the second or the third. There are some Americans who'll miss the Rose Bowl because they have to go to work, and that's just not right. The Orange will be on the third if the Sugar is on the second, or else it'll be on the fourth, and the Fiesta will be on the fourth if the Orange is on the third, or else it'll be on the fifth. The BCS Championship will be on the ninth.

Thanks, NFL. Maybe we'll get another craptacular classic like the Seahawks and Rams.

4. TCU billboards in Columbus
Anonymous Horned Frog fans paid to have billboards displayed in Columbus, Ohio, saying, "Congratulations to TCU For their BCS Rose Bowl Victory," and on the bottom it was signed – Little Sisters of the Poor. This was a response to Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee's griping about the non-BCS teams and whether or not they deserve to be in the biggest games. However, there's one problem, beyond congratulating TCU for "their" victory instead of "its" victory. Gee was complaining about the Horned Frogs' schedule, and not the team itself, saying they had to play the "Little Sisters of the Poor." He didn't specifically call TCU the "Little Sisters of the Poor." So unless the sign was paid for by the Mountain West teams that TCU vanquished, the donors are actually dogging their own program by lumping it in with the weak and the sad. While it seems like good natured fun, the signs make TCU look small time.

3. TCU striking one for the little guy
ESPN and ABC get a pass for pumping up the David vs. Goliath myth of the TCU-Wisconsin Rose Bowl; they had to move product and promote the game. But it didn't stop. TCU jumped on the idea of being the "little guy" and used it for its own motivational purposes, and the weak and the lazy took the bait hook, line, and sinker.

TCU was a great team that beat another great team in a big game. It didn't change football, it didn't advance the cause of the non-AQ programs, and it didn't mean one single thing when it comes to the perception of non-AQ teams compared to the BCSers.

Had Hunter Lawrence missed the kick against Nebraska in the 2009 Big 12 Championship, TCU, and not Texas, probably would've played Alabama for the national title. Had Oregon or Auburn stumbled late, the Horned Frogs likely would've gone to Glendale. The non-AQ team has right on the doorstep for the last few years, and it didn't take a win over a Big Ten team to get there.

Utah already busted the BCS door down with a 35-7 win over Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, and later made itself at home in the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Boise State trick-played its way to a 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, and got back to the BCS in 2010, of course beating another non-AQ in TCU.
The trail had already been blazed when TCU came up with its big win. America had already been discovered by the time Columbus arrived.

2. The 36 days
Teams with BCS Championship aspirations, have you now learned from history? What got you to Glendale/New Orleans/Miami/Pasadena probably isn't going to work once you get there, and it's not your fault.

The Army/Navy game was played on December 11th, and the world kept spinning. There's absolutely no reason that the college football season can't be extended to finish up in the middle of December, and if you dare bring up the idea of school and finals, I'll happily remind you that no one seems to care about the schoolwork of the FCS types, and the first bowl games start on December 18th.

Pack the bowl season into 20 days with the start coming in mid-December and the national title coming in the first week of January. That way, the two teams playing in the title game will have half the time they have now to wait around. There will be less rust, conditioning wouldn't be as much of a factor, and the national championship would be a truer representation of what happened during the regular season.

Also, and this is something every coach would take in a heartbeat, there would be more bye weeks. If the conference championship games were played in the middle of December, every team would get at least two additional off weeks to heal up, prepare, and yes, maybe let the players work on their school work a bit more. So why won't this ever happen? The bowls.

The bowl games want to know yesterday who's coming so they can put together ticket packages, prepare for the teams coming in, and to make all the arrangements necessary. Fans can't jet to odd parts of the country with just a week of lead time, but still, college football would be far better if there was less of an emphasis on the bowls, more attention paid to the regular season, and more concern about the BCS games and the strength of the national title.

1. A Plus One
Every year around this time fans and commentators want to bring up the idea of a Plus One. It would be the plan to play one extra game after all the bowls to decide once and for all who really is the national champion. Basically what you're asking for is a four team playoff, because one extra game doesn't work.

So what's the plan? It's not fair to play a BCS Championship and then give someone else a shot at beating the team that just won the matchup of the top two teams. Are you going to take the top four teams according to the BCS and play 1 vs. 4 in one bowl and 2 vs. 3 in the other, with the two winners playing a week later? That would've been Auburn vs. Stanford and TCU vs. Oregon this season, and while that might seem like a nice solution, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and others, would've gone ballistic before the bowl season if this was the set up.

So maybe you'll take just the conference winners. That'll be more cut-and-dry next year with Big Ten and Pac 12 championship games, but this year, the Big 12 champion would've been shut out.

So maybe you'll take the hottest teams after the bowls. Right now, do you believe TCU was better after its Rose Bowl performance against Wisconsin than Alabama after what the Tide did to Michigan State? Maybe Stanford should get its turn at bat against Auburn after destroying Virginia Tech. Ohio State got by Arkansas and finished 12-1; it sure would like to take its cuts.

The bowl season can't and shouldn't be the determining factor for one extra game. If you want a four-team playoff of conference champions, fine. If you can't get into that group, then something went wrong and you probably didn't deserve to be there in the first place, and this year, that four-team playoff would've been Auburn vs. Wisconsin and TCU vs. Oregon. Last year it would've been Alabama vs. TCU and Texas vs. Cincinnati. After the 2008 season, Texas would've complained, but Oklahoma vs. Utah and Florida vs. USC wouldn't have been so bad.

I want an eight-team playoff, but the Plus One idea is the one that seems to have a little life and some legs. If this really is a possibility, then let's just call it a four-team playoff and accept it as a nice step forward.

Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn't feel like writing bigger blurbs for.

- My college football New Year's resolution is to care more about coordinator hirings, because they really, really matter. Auburn's coordinators brought the program a national title, Illinois turned things around after Ron Zook hired Paul Petrino to handle the offense and Vic Koenning to take care of the defense, and Charlie Weis should make a huge impact on Florida as its offensive coordinator.

- Stay tuned to the story, if not the network, with Texas and ESPN combining forces for a 24-hour Longhorn network. Big 12 bigwigs, be prepared. Texas might be setting itself up to become an independent.

- Much, much, much more on this in the coming weeks, but an early consideration for the sneaky-important game of the 2011 season: LSU at West Virginia. The Mountaineers should be loaded, and if they pull that off against the No. 3 ranked Tigers, it's Game On for the national title.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Cameron Newton Day, January 8, 2011 … Underrated: International Bacon Day, September 5, 2011
2) Overrated: Les Miles turning down Michigan to save face … Underrated: Michigan not wanting to be turned down by Les Miles
3) Overrated: Ryan Mallett ... Underrated: Alyse Eady
4) Overrated: Lance Armstrong ... Underrated: The court case of No v. Duh
5) Overrated: Regis Philbin ... Underrated: 2011 Notre Dame

"Tracy did mention we shouldn't let him gamble. Or drink too much."… Considering what a nightmare my picks have been over the years, hopefully you realized that things were clicking. It won't last. Save up to go the other way next season. … Final Results: 1) Kentucky +3.5 over Pitt (L, Pitt 27-10), 2) Boston College +7.5 over Nevada (W, Nevada 20-13), 3) Auburn -2.5 over Oregon (W, Auburn 22-19) … Record So Far: 28-18-3

This week's picks: 1) Chicago +3 over Green Bay, 2) Pittsburgh -3 over N.Y. Jets

By the end of the 2011 college football season, the best guess for my Heisman ballot cast for the Most Outstanding College Football Player in the United States will be. … 1) Denard Robinson, QB Michigan, 2) Landry Jones, QB Oklahoma, 3) LaMichael James, RB Oregon

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … like the Pitt announcement of the hiring of Todd Graham, this column flew under the radar by coming out during the second quarter of the BCS Championship.

As always, my undying gratitude and sincerest of thanks for your continued feedback, commentary, and criticism about this weekly self-serving pile of narcissistic goo. It's truly an honor to be able to kill a few moments of your workday, and I promise to attempt to be better next season (and from time to time this offseason). Of course, those columns are going to suck, too.

Stay Handsome. 

 Jan. 20 - Why Auburn Won the National Title